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Nutrition

Understanding Calories | All You Need To Know

Understanding Calories | All You Need To Know

Calories. They’re talked about all the time. Every food packet states how many calories it contains, but do you actually know what a calorie is? In this article we’ll be revealing all on calories and with this knowledge you’ll be able to smash your fitness goals this year!


What is a Calorie?

A calorie is a unit of energy.  Nutritionally speaking, a calorie refers to the energy we consume through eating and drinking. A calorie is measured through the three macronutrients: carbohydrates, fat, and protein.  To measure calories, you need to know that 4 calories are equal to 1 g of carbohydrates.  The same goes for protein.  However, 9 calories are equal to 1 gram of fat.  This is because fats are much more nutritionally dense compared to carbohydrates and protein.  Calories are essential for health, but the key is the right amount.

Of course, this will vary between depending on your physical make-up.  Everyone requires a different number of calories each day depending on one’s age, height, and activity levels.  Without calories, our cells would die and our lungs and heart would eventually stop properly functioning.  If our calorie consumption is too high or too low, we will experience health issues.

understanding calories


How Many Calories Do You Need?

The ideal calorie consumption differs depending on several factors. These include:

☐ Age

☐ Height

☐ Activity level

However, what you actually eat is what is important.  A large, well balanced, breakfast can help control body weight.  Starting the day with breakfast may also lower your risk of diabetes, high cholesterol, and heart disease.

The general recommendation for calorie consumption is between 2,000 and 2,500 total calories for men and around 500 less calories for women.  To gain weight, one is advised to eat in a surplus of 500 additional calories daily.  To lose weight, one should consume 500 less calories each day.  To determine how many calories your body burns at rest (BMR), use the following formula:

Men:  BMR = 66.47 + (13.75 x weight in kg) + (5 x height) – (6.74 x age in years)

Women: BMR = 665.09 + (9.56 x weight in kg) + (1.84 x height) – (4.67 x age in years)

The human body uses about 60% of our calories just to keep up with daily processes and functions at rest, such as breathing.  The more lean muscle one has, the higher their BMR will be.  The remainder of overall calories is divided between activity and digestion.  Of course, you will add or subtract calories accordingly to your daily overall activity level, and more if you workout on a daily basis.

what are calories


Is A Calorie a Calorie?

Most would argue that calories are as simple as calories in and calories out.  However, there are more nutritionally ‘dense’ foods than others.  If you’ve heard of ’empty calories’ these apply to those foods that hold little to no dietary fiber, amino acids, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.  Empty calories can be divided into two categories; added sugars and solid fats.

Added sugars – these foods are the sugary carbohydrates such as candy, cakes, donuts, baked goods, soda, etc, that are found in the form of high-fructose corn syrup and sucrose.

Solid fats – Although solid fats may exist naturally in many foods, these kinds of fats are commonly added during food processing, as well as when foods are prepared. Solid fats are found in bacon, hot dogs, some cheeses and pizza.

Added sugars and solid fats are arguably said to be what makes foods more enjoyable, but this added taste comes with added calories.

understanding calories


Take Home Message

It’s important to make sure that one eats the right amount of calories everyday in order to maintain good health.  Each macronutrient is important for their own reasons and health functions.  Calorie consumption will vary depending on the several factors previously mentioned above.  You should try and avoid ’empty calories’, as these foods will not fuel your body as well as more nutritionally ‘dense’ foods. Make sure you’re consuming the right calories.

Our articles should be used for informational and educational purposes only and are not intended to be taken as medical advice. If you’re concerned, consult a health professional before taking dietary supplements or introducing any major changes to your diet.

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Katie Mclean

Katie Mclean

Writer and expert


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